October 20 Is World Osteoporosis Day

Each year, the International Osteoporosis Foundation (IOF) sponsors this global event to call attention to the prevention of osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become weak and fragile, and puts us at higher risk of fractures as we grow older. This year’s theme is “Take Action for Bone Health,” and the IOF urges everyone to follow these steps to stronger bones:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Include plenty of bone-healthy nutrients in your diet
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Avoid smoking and excess alcohol consumption
  • Learn your risk factors
  • Get tested for osteoporosis, and get treatment if necessary

A study on osteoporosis and nutrition published in the IOP’s official journal, Osteoporosis International, stressed that bone health is a lifelong pursuit, highlighting the bone-protecting nutritional requirements of expectant mothers, children, adolescents, adults and older adults. With an emphasis on calcium, vitamin D and protein, the study showed that the goal in childhood and adolescence is to build the best bone mass we can. In adulthood, the goal is to avoid premature bone loss. And for seniors, preventing and treating osteoporosis is the focus.

Though good nutrition protects bones throughout life, a sad irony is that once we realize our bones have become brittle and porous, we’ve already passed our optimum years for building bone density. If only we could go back and lecture our younger selves!

There’s an opportunity for grandparents there. Osteoporosis can have a genetic component, and eating habits also “run in families.” Now that you’re older and wiser, share what you’ve experienced and learned. If you’re dealing with bone loss, talk about it. Urge younger family members to add calcium-rich foods to their diet. And don’t forget those moms-to-be!

“Nutrition plays a key role in the development of a healthy skeleton even before birth,” reported University of Southampton professor Cyrus Cooper, president of the IOF. “Healthy maternal diets as well as adequate vitamin D levels are associated with greater bone mass in the offspring.”

The study authors reported that many children fail to get enough calcium and vitamin D. Adults, too, may be deficient, and many make lifestyle choices that lead to lower bone density, such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and being too overweight or underweight. Seniors in particular may be suffering from malnutrition.

With the increasing number of older adults in the U.S. and globally, the rate of osteoporosis is expected to rise. “The baby boomer generation is aging and as a result age-related musculoskeletal diseases are imposing an increasingly costly burden on society and health care systems worldwide,” reported Dr. Bess Dawson-Hughes of Tufts University’s Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. “This report shows how we can tap the potential of healthy nutrition within a systematic life-course approach to support osteoporosis and fracture prevention.”

The study authors said that improving the diet of older adults, along with exercise and medication, if recommended, can reduce the risk of debilitating falls and fractures. They created a free consumer booklet based on the study findings, Healthy Nutrition, Healthy Bones, which covers the various life stages and ways older adults can avoid falls and fractures.

The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your health care provider. Talk to your doctor about maintaining bone health and managing osteoporosis.

Source: IlluminAge reporting on materials from the International Osteoporosis Foundation